Exchanging home country driving licence for Dubai or UAE driving licence
15 October 2009 - All nationalities must take a driving test (again?)
UAE media reported that expats from all countries might be required to take a theory and practical test before being allowed to obtain a UAE driving license. This was apparently a recommendation from a UK consultancy, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). A final report would go to the UAE Ministry of the Interior by the end of 2009 before possible revision of the UAE driving license exchange rules.
06 April 2007 - All/most nationalities must now take a driving test?
Information below about certain nationalities exchanging licences may not be correct as of 15 January 2007, or 06 April 2007. The Khaleej Times (an English language UAE newspaper) carried a report on 06 April 2007 that Shihab Hamad Bu Shihab, Manager of Driving Licences at the RTA (Dubai Roads and Transport Authority) said holders of licences from countries that were previously allowed to simply exchange them for a UAE driving licence, must now do a minimum 21 classes and a driving test. Apparently this rule has been in place since 15 January 2007. Whether or not this will be implemented/enforced is unknown, despite what Mr Shihab says. See Dubai driving licence forum topic for Khaleej Times newspaper article and comments.
Countries that can exchange their driving licence in the UAE
Certain nationalities have the good fortune to be able to obtain a Dubai driving licence simply by showing their own driving license, and going through a bit of paperwork. The procedure takes an hour or so. If you're not one of the lucky ones, you'll have to pass a driving test first - an annoyingly time-consuming and bewildering procedure. Expats with licences from other GCC countries may or may not - they're supposed to have a license from the country of nationality. The list of countries that can obtain a Dubai driving licences without the driving test from dubai.ae/dubaipolice.gov.ae is below. A * means you need to get license translated into Arabic. Canadians need to get a letter from the Canadian Consulate in Dubai to state the license is genuine. Countries for driving licence exchange in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, RAK, Sharjah, and UAQ should be the same or similar.
Note that your original driving licence is supposed to be from the same country as your passport nationality. If it's not, try to get a Dubai driving licence anyway. People have succeeded before - possibly because they have something like an EU passport with a UK driving licence or vice versa. An Australian/NZ combination might work also. As of 2007 this is less likely to be possible.
Update 05 August 2009: A UAE traffic department representative (Ali Mohammed Al Jasem from the Dubai RTA driver's licence department?) was interviewed on the Dubai Eye radio station, and during the show said that a citizen of one of the driving licence exchange countries could freely exchange their license even if it was from a different country, as long as it was from one of the countries on the list. Citizens of countries not on the list could not exchange a licence even if the licence was from a driving licence exchange country.
If you have an Asian passport and a non-Asian driver's license, you may find it more difficult as many Asian driving licences are not accepted for a simple conversion - a driving test has to be done before getting a driver's licence for Dubai.
The following 2 paragraphs may be out of date from 01 March 2008, depending on how the new Federal Traffic Law is implemented.
Visitors and tourists driving private cars in the UAE
Why all the "mights" and "maybes"? Because it's difficult to get consistent answers from official sources. If you want to take the safe route, either your visitor should rent a car, or they should go to the RTA or Dubai Police and get a temporary licence. Then get something from your insurance company in writing that they are covered.
Procedure for exchange of home country driving licence for a Dubai driver's license
UAE driving license with a driving test
Last update Sunday 25-Jul-2010